Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables around, and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Although individuals might love it or hate it, there’s no denying that it is something that belongs in a healthy diet.
But how about the diets of our sheep? Can sheep eat broccoli too?
Yes, sheep may eat broccoli but only on a very limited basis due to the dangers associated with broccoli consumption and bloat, among other problems. Fed in limited quantities as part of a well-rounded diet, broccoli is a good source of vitamin B2, folate, manganese, and phosphorus.
This is one of those times when one of the healthiest vegetables around, for people, is something that has some serious drawbacks when it comes to our animals.
It’s nothing to be afraid of so long as you understand these drawbacks and plan around them. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving broccoli to sheep.
Health Benefits of Broccoli for Sheep
Broccoli hardly needs any introduction as one of the healthiest vegetables commonly eaten around the world today. This cruciferous plant is absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals.
Broccoli contains vitamin A, beta-carotene, and many B vitamins, of which B2, B3, B6, and folate are the standouts by quantity.
Broccoli also contains a ton of vitamin C, although this is sadly somewhat wasted on sheep since they produce most of the vitamin C they need in their liver. However, broccoli also has nearly as much vitamin K which sheep also need.
The mineral content of broccoli is also remarkable, with good amounts of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
All of these minerals work together to produce a healthy skeleton, strong connective tissue, and bountiful wool, with potassium in particular being vital for sheep as they utilize it to properly balance bacteria in the rumen.
And although it doesn’t feel like it, broccoli averages about 89% Water by weight, meaning this is another great choice for helping to keep your flock hydrated on warm, hot days.
Can Sheep Eat Broccoli Raw?
Yes, sheep can, and will, eat broccoli raw. Many homesteaders and farmers who grow broccoli in addition to keeping sheep probably have a funny story pertaining to their flock getting loose or breaking into an area they shouldn’t be and eating their broccoli right down to the ground.
If you are going to feed your sheep broccoli on a supplemental basis, this is probably the best way to do it as it will ensure that the broccoli has maximum nutritional value.
Caution: Vegetables in the Brassicaceae Family can be Harmful
It isn’t all good news with broccoli. Broccoli, along with other plants in the Brassicaceae family, can be harmful to sheep if eaten excessively or if they are allowed to eat too much, too quickly, in a single sitting.
That is because compounds in all parts of these plants can upset the balance of a sheep’s complex digestive tract.
Bloat has long been associated with the feeding of broccoli and other cruciform vegetables to sheep.
Additionally, evidence suggests that repeated ingestion can lead to significant problems associated with the blocking of mineral absorption, zinc in particular.
However, so long as your sheep are fed a normal and well-rounded diet, a little bit of broccoli is unlikely to hurt them assuming they are otherwise healthy.
Can Sheep Eat Broccoli Cooked?
Yes, sheep can eat cooked broccoli. Steamed or roasted is a great way to make the broccoli softer and easier to chew for your flock.
Do keep in mind that cooking will not reduce the hazards associated with excess consumption of the vegetable, however.
Additionally, cooking does reduce the vitamin and mineral complement somewhat, so the benefit is a trade-off.
Never Feed Broccoli to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are on the subject of cooking, you must never, ever feed broccoli to your sheep that has been prepared with any harmful ingredients they cannot have. Seasonings, salt, sugar, oils, cheese, and the like are all bad for sheep.
At best, these ingredients are associated with diarrhea, digestive upset, and weight gain. At worst, they can lead to severe issues like bloat on their own, inflammation of the intestinal tract, and other serious health effects. Any of these latter effects might be fatal.
So you might have your favorite broccoli recipe, or rely on a topping or addition to make it more palatable, but your sheep definitely don’t need any such things.
If you’re going to feed your sheep cooked broccoli it must be plain, end of story.
Beware of Pesticides on Grocery-bought Broccoli
One more thing you should be aware of, at least if you’re purchasing your broccoli from the grocery store, is the likely presence of pesticides.
It is a sad truth today that pretty much all of our commercial produce is heavily treated with pesticide, from its very planting to harvesting, and these pesticides can mean serious health risks for mammals.
Significant ingestion of these pesticide residues from produce has been associated with neurological damage, endocrine system problems, and even reproductive harm.
If you don’t want any of these things to be for your sheep you must make it a point to purchase organic, pesticide-free broccoli from the store if you aren’t growing your own for your sheep.
If you can’t grow your own, or can’t find any organic varieties, just make sure you thoroughly wash the broccoli as best you can before giving it to your flock.
How Often Can Sheep Have Broccoli?
As mentioned above, sheep should only have broccoli on a very limited basis, probably no more than once a week in small quantities.
Also, sheep are particularly sensitive to sudden changes in their diet, as it takes their digestive system some time to adapt properly to new food intake.
You want to go especially easy on the quantity when introducing broccoli to your sheep.
Preparing Broccoli for Your Flock
Preparing broccoli for your flock is fairly simple. You should chop up the stalks and the heads of the broccoli into small pieces that will make it easy for your sheep to chew and swallow it.
Whole heads of broccoli can be challenging for sheep, the same with larger pieces. Keep in mind that choking is a possibility if your sheep are struggling to eat what you have served them.
Can Lambs Have Broccoli, Too?
Giving broccoli to lambs is not a good idea. The potential problems that broccoli can cause sheep along with the extra sensitivity of a developing lamb’s digestive system means that broccoli is a bad choice.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
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